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In Lyon, a disproportionate controversy over the single menu in school canteens



This Monday, February 22, several dozen breeders, butchers and other representatives of the meat industry expressed their anger in front of Lyon city hall. To adapt the organization of school canteens to health measures, the town hall (EELV) of Grégory Doucet has announced the establishment of a single menu in which meat is replaced by eggs and fish. In a few hours, several members of the executive showed their disagreement, including the Minister of Agriculture Julien Denormandie who announced, Sunday February 21, to have seized the prefect of the Rhône to cancel the decision.

In May 2020, however, the former mayor of the city Gérard Collomb had imposed the same measure without arousing any mistrust. “At the time, the decision was justified by the urgency of the first wave, but today, it is no longer”, we say to the cabinet of the Minister of Agriculture, who had notably encouraged the consumption of beef in schools : “It is the opposite of a social measure: for some children, lunch in the canteen is the only meal with meat, and therefore balanced, of the day”.

A question of public health

To approach the Prefect, Julien Denormandie thus relied on a decree of September 30, 2011 relating to nutritional rules in school restaurants, indicating that it was appropriate to serve, on the basis of 20 successive meals, “At least 4 meals with, as a protein dish, unminced meat of beef, veal, lamb or butcher’s offal”.

“But these rules are in effect until other decisions calling for freedom, equality, health or safety, for example, are authoritative”, recalls Michel Verpeaux, professor emeritus of public law at the Sorbonne and president of the French association of law of local authorities, advancing the particular case of the health crisis and the importance of the concept of public health.

Rethinking the organization of canteens

In the canteens, the health protocol was reinforced at the beginning of the month: it prohibits the mixing of classes at lunchtime, where a two-meter distance between students is now mandatory. “I can say that all the municipalities have been forced to rethink the organization of their canteens, in large towns and small villages. Service time is greatly reduced and student circulation needs to be improved, and for that, a large number of them have chosen to offer a single menu ”, explains Delphine Labails, mayor of Périgueux and president of the Education commission at the Association of Mayors of France (AMF).

→ EXPLANATION. Why has the health protocol become more flexible in schools in the face of the English variant?

In December 2020, during a completely different conflict involving the league for the legal defense of Muslims and the town of Chalon-sur-Saône, the Council of State had also stated in its decision that the manager of a public service optional could “Decide to modify the organizational and operating methods”, if the motivess are “Related to the requirements of the service” and as long as is taken into account “The general interest which is attached to ensuring that all children can access this public service”. For Delphine Labails, “The only need today is to offer without risk of contamination a hot and healthy meal to all the pupils, and it turns out that a meal without meat but with other proteins remains a balanced meal”.

The controversy could swell

Traveling to Lyon for other reasons, the Minister of Health Olivier Véran declared that he was not shocked by the fact of offering menus without meat or fish at school and moved the question to “The underlying motivation” of such a decision. During the municipal council of this Monday, February 22, the mayor of Lyon Grégory Doucet, he said : “There is no ideology, only good practical sense. The rest is just political controversy. “

In the coming days, the prefect should initiate a moderation procedure before seizing the administrative judge to assess the legality of the decision, if the town hall of Lyon chooses to maintain it. But the controversy could swell: Monday, at the end of the afternoon, parents of students announced that they wanted to file an interim suspension before the administrative court of Lyon, by Friday.

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